By Dave & Deb Bouskill, on October 18, 2013

The beauty of Florence

Imagine walking through the cobblestone streets of a romantic European city perusing fine art and studying ancient architecture dating back to the Renaissance. Florence, Italy will fulfill those dreams. Considered by many as the most beautiful city on earth, a walk through the city center takes you on a journey through history and beauty at every turn.

It was home to Michelangelo, and tourists flock to this corner of Tuscany every year to catch a glimpse of David, his most famous masterpiece. It was our mission to see David when we visited Florence. My own “David” wanted to see his more famous counterpart. We were in luck, because we not only saw one statue, but three around the city.

Galeria dell’Academia is where you can find the original David standing tall and ready to face his battle with Goliath. The lines are long and photos are not allowed of David inside, but it is still very interesting to view this famous sculpture. If you follow the rules and don’t snap a photo, then don’t worry, because you have two more opportunities around the city to take a photo of David.

A short walk from the Galeria dell’Acedemia will take you to Plaza Vecchio to see another David on display at the Piazza della Signoria. Not only will you see David, but you will also view a beautiful outdoor gallery of impressive white marble statues. It seems that every turn in the city brings you to another masterpiece.

For your final view of David, a walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo is required. Located high on a hill in the Olrarno Quarter on the south side of the river, the Piazzale makes for a gorgeous sunset view of Florence. You can take a bus or taxi to the Piazzale Michelangelo, but you can easily walk from city center as well. Up here, David gazes over the city, enjoying the same beautiful view as you. This is where you will capture that perfect postcard view that you have seen so many times before.

The skyline below is dominated by the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo, and it is a must-visit for anyone seeing Florence. This Renaissance-era structure is in the center of the city and all roads lead to this busy plaza. It is ornately decorated with colorful marble and is one of Italy’s largest cathedrals. Admission is free to view the frescos inside and you can even climb its 463 steps for a stunning view of Florence. We opted out since the lines were too long, but instead admired its beauty from outside while scooping fresh gelato from our cups.

Viewfinder Tip: Get up early to see the Duomo, crowds start as soon as the sun comes up.

From the Duomo you must visit the Baptistery of St. John to gaze upon the golden doors. Michelangelo exclaimed that they were so beautiful that he labeled them, “The Gates of Paradise.” The name has stuck and crowds gaze upon their beauty all day long.

You can lose yourself in the streets of Florence discovering buildings and art, and a walk to the river is certainly a must. It is here that you will see the Ponte Vecchio. It is one of the most famous bridges in Europe and the only bridge in Florence to survive World War II. Spanning the Arno River, Ponte Vecchio still houses shops selling goods and wares, a practice that was once popular in Italy, but is now more rare. The bridge appears crowded up-close, but walk further down the river to look back and it blends beautifully with the rhythm of the city.

It could take years to truly discover all the beauty that Florence has to offer. We barely scratched the surface of its 72 museums. It is indeed a city of museums and you could get lost in the art and sculptures on display by the likes of Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. Tour the Uffizi, one of the world’s top museums, or stroll through the Medici Palace, home to the most powerful family dynasty in Florence for two centuries starting in the late 1400s. They produced popes, queens, dukes and the Medici Bank, the largest in Europe at the time.

Florence truly flourished in a romantic era and couples come to this city searching for a taste of that renaissance romance. We fell in love with the city. It is a place where you could rush around and see everything, but part of the charm of visiting Florence is to sit back, enjoy an espresso, and watch the world pass you by from the seat of an outdoor café. You would think that with all this history and wealth, Florence would be unaffordable, but we found a hotel in the heart of the old city for only €99, which is a great deal for any city. To be so close to all the piazzas, museums, and attractions, we had one very romantic Italian getaway.

What city have you always wanted to visit in Europe?